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John Glenn High’s dream finally becomes reality as school ushers new football stadium

JOHN GLENN HIGH principal Francisco Ramirez speaks at the grand opening for the school’s new football stadium and sports facility this past Tuesday.



By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The past and present of John Glenn High in terms of faculty, students, community and friends made their way to the school’s new on-campus football stadium and sports facility this past Tuesday for a grand opening ceremony. The new digs hope to bring in more students in the future as the Eagles are stepping up in their athletic facilities, which also include new baseball and softball fields, all of which will include all synthetic turf surfaces.

Glenn principal Francisco Ramirez kicked off the event, welcoming several dignitaries and important people from the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District’s Board of Education, Norwalk City Council and Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“We are so thankful for the time, energy and passion that so many people have exerted to materialize what was once a dream into a historical chapter in the legacy that encapsulates the living spirit of our mighty Glenn Eagles,” Ramirez said as he opened the ceremony.

“It’s definitely surreal,” said Glenn co-athletic director Linda Parra. “I was talking to one of our security guards who has been at our district for over 30 years and I was like it’s unbelievable. This is ours. It’s pretty amazing.”

Ground broke on the new football stadium and athletic fields nearly a year and a half ago as the school received $25 million out of the $375 million that the school district got from the Measure G bond that voters approved on Nov. 4, 2014. This will be the first time in school history that a fully equipped lighted football stadium has been on campus. The school was founded in 1962 and for over 50 years, the football team has played their home games either at Excelsior Stadium or at La Mirada High.

Parra said she didn’t think something like this would happen when came to Glenn in 2001 because she never knew a bond that big would be passed in the community.

“It’s really a community effort that this was passed in the city,” she said.

“I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by, and we are here today for this landmark celebration,” said NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian.

Danielian went on to thank the ‘visionary leadership’ of the Board of Education who initiated the Measure G bond project as well as those who supported the bond’s passage.

The football stadium will seat approximately 2,500 and at midfield is the school’s iconic ‘JG” logo. The words ‘John Glenn” in block letters are in the north endzone, which is blue with white lettering while the word ‘Eagles’ are in the south endzone. Every five yards of the field has alternating different shades of green and around the field is an all-weather track surface. 

According to Jesse Urquidi, Board of Education member and a Glenn alumnus who spoke at the ceremony, the stadium as well as the rest of the athletic field complex is the largest turf instillation west of the Mississippi River at 650,000 square feet. The first major event to take place on the new field will be the graduation on May 31 at 6:30 p.m. Southeast Academy will host drill competitions on the field and the Glenn football team will have its home opener on Aug. 23 against Savanna High.

When asked when Glenn was going to have its first official football practice on the field, head coach Vince Lobendahn asked in a joking way, “can you hurry up?” “As soon as you get off, we’re on.” 

“It’s big for us,” Lobendahn said of the new stadium. “We’ve been in a high school that we have just felt a lot of big things negatively-wise and we’re thankful to be standing where we are today. Thanks to the City of Norwalk and their gratitude to us. They gave us and our students an opportunity to be competitive in the programs that we use.”

Lobendahn added that one of the unique features of the stadium will be the lights and said that when people drive around looking for football stadiums, they find them by their lights. He said that the lights ‘directly only impact our field’ and that the community is happy because they won’t affect residents around the high school when they go to sleep.

One of the highlights of the day, which came towards the end of the ceremony, was the recognition of the 2018-2019 boys wrestling team, which won the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship. Parra and co-athletic director Jack Brooks presented the team with a banner that had each of the wrestlers’ names. The team then walked around the track with the new banner. Other athletic teams and clubs also walked around the track at the end of the ceremony.

A dedication plaque with the names of the NLMUSD Board of Education including Danielian and Estuardo Santillan, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, will be placed at the ticket booth.

The past few years has been a learning experience, according to Parra. The athletic department has had to relocate its baseball, softball and track and field teams to other locations as well as its lower level football teams.

“It’s definitely a collaborative effort,” Parra said. “This would not have happened if I didn’t have the support from my coaching staff and our players and parents going to board meetings and being part of it and showing how important this was to our community. That, eventually, is what really led to the lights being here.”

“One of the biggest challenges we have as a community is lighting that spirit from within,” Ramirez said. “So, our kids have overcome a lot of challenges, they’ve overcome a lot of adversity. And having a facility like this gives them that opportunity to really focus on athletics as that means of overcoming all those challenges.”